A WOMAN who was forced to sell her house to pay back stolen money has now been forced to cash in her pensions as well.

Melanie Goodwin, 59, stole more than £80,000 while in control of finance at Abingdon lighting business Optelma.

She admitted to fraud and abuse of her position in June and was handed a 12-month suspended sentence.

But yesterday Goodwin was brought before Oxford Crown Court again to agree how the money would be paid back.

The court heard how prior to admitting her guilt in June, Goodwin, of Whites Court, Evesham in Worcestershire, had also helped herself to £250,000 from educational charity PACT.

It was that charity which contacted Optelma in Napier Court, Abingdon, to warn them of the former employee who worked for the lighting company from 1992 to 2014.

The warning prompted an audit at Optelma and showed Goodwin had helped herself to a total of £82,532 from the company.

At the time, the court heard how Goodwin admitted she was in debt and was struggling to repay, so took the money.

Recorder Richard Prior told Oxford Crown Court in June Goodwin had significant credit card debts and became caught in a cycle of theft to stop her husband, who suffered from depression, finding out.

He added: “I have had no satisfactory explanation of how the large debts were incurred or as to the amount of those debts. The lack of credible explanation very much suggests that it could have been lifestyle.”

Optelma’s audit did find that having taken thousands of pounds from the Abingdon business Goodwin did attempt to repay it, putting £57,876 of the money back in a process known as Teeming and Lading.

As a result, yesterday her honourable judge Zoe Smith ordered Goodwin to pay back the remaining £24,655.97, as well as £500 in court costs.

Kellie Enever, defending, said: “In order for Ms Goodwin to release this money it means she will have to cash in two of her pensions, I believe her only pensions.”

She added: “This offence predates the offences which appeared before courts in London. [PACT]

“She paid back this money in full, in fact had to sell her house to pay them back.”

Judge Smith ordered Goodwin to pay back the money with three months or return to court to be granted an extension.